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  • Bruce Baker

CHEER Brings Health Care Insurance Opportunities to the Latino and African Immigrant Communities

During the winter of 2015 CHEER community outreach specialists brought health care insurance information and opportunities to the Latino and African immigrant communities in the Takoma Park and Silver Spring area. During the Affordable Care Act open enrollment season our team of eight community outreach specialists contacted 1,368 people about health care opportunities through the Affordable Care Act and the Kaiser Permanente Community Health Access Program (CHAP).

In late January we were invited by Kaiser Permanente to do outreach for their Community Health Access Program (CHAP). This program provides free health care to low income uninsured who do not qualify for coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Applications for the CHAP program were due the same day as the end of ACA open enrollment, February 15.

As we got the word out about this opportunity, two CHEER volunteers, Rosemary McCloskey and Mary Lee Baker were trained by Kaiser Permanente to determine eligibility and fill out applications. As word spread the number of CHAP applicants coming to the CHEER office in Long Branch swelled. CHEER staff and volunteers quickly adapted to manage the rising need. In the final week potential applicants formed a line that extended all the way to the street entrance. The CHEER staff organized effectively to handle the crowds. CHEER outreach specialists, Sonia Reyes and Maribel Juarez kept the lines in order by using a sign in sheet. The applicants were patient and well behaved and several of them stepped forward to help the process when the need arose. Two or three staff filled out the easy parts of the application to save time, and three staff would fill out the hard parts of the applications (income verification). One volunteer, Mary Lee, provided quality control as applications were completed to make sure as many applications would be accepted as possible. Overall the team prepared 426 applications with 144 of these completed on the last Saturday Feb 14. The CHEER team performed heroically, and feedback from the applicants was that of gratitude and respect.

We owe a special thank you to all the CHEER staff and volunteers who contributed to this effort. The CHEER Latino Outreach team includes Francisco Orantes, Vanesa Pinto, Karla Castro, Sonia Reyes, Maribel Juarez. The African immigrant team includes Miniabiyi Ford, Betelhem Abebe, and Yohana Merho. The volunteers are Dolores Badillo, Gia Mejia, Mary Lee Baker, Chase Briggs, and Rosemary McCloskey. (Rosemary played a special leadership role in the CHAP process) and Vineda Myers played a crucial role in keeping all the teams supplied and operating.

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